Eagles Wake-Up Call: Isaac Seumalo’s Surprise

Why the Eagles rookie was wrong about his performance on Sunday.
Isaac Seumalo. (Jeff Fusco)

Isaac Seumalo. (Jeff Fusco)

Isaac Seumalo could not be convinced. Standing in front of his locker at M&T Bank Stadium after the Eagles’ 27-26 loss to the Ravens, the rookie third-round pick insisted his play was “pretty average.”

Technically, he was right. He didn’t allow any sacks or quarterback hits in 49 pass-blocking snaps, but he did concede four hurries. He also wasn’t particularly special in the ground game, although the offensive line as a whole paved the way for a rushing attack that totaled 169 yards and two touchdowns off of 38 carries.

But when you consider the context, Seumalo was dead wrong. The 23-year-old was playing for the first time in the NFL at right tackle, a position he hadn’t practiced in months. He also reportedly played through a high ankle sprain for almost the entire game on Sunday, knowing the Eagles had virtually no depth behind him because of a string of injuries.

“Isaac did a great job. He’s had the roughest go of all of us,” Jason Kelce said. “He’s been told the day of a game he’s going to go in there and start twice. Obviously played right tackle for us today and that’s not something he’s really been working on at all this season. For the most part he’s been playing guard, so for him to go out there and play the way he did and for the offensive line to function the way it did with him out there, I don’t think you can ask anymore from a guy. Very smart. Very athletic. Did a great job.”

While Seumalo’s play was a nice surprise given the circumstances, it wasn’t shocking. In his first NFL start in Week 12 when Brandon Brooks was a last-minute scratch the first time, Seumalo allowed two sacks and four hurries at right guard. But the next time Brooks was a last-minute scratch two weeks later, Seumalo quickly improved and gave up just a single hurry in 54 pass-blocking snaps.

Against Baltimore, Doug Pederson gave Seumalo help in the form of chip blocks from tight ends and running backs in addition to the offensive line often sliding protection his way, but Seumalo played about as well as anyone could’ve reasonably expected. Now, the question going forward is whether Seumalo will play at all in the Eagles’ final two games with Lane Johnson back from his suspension.

Jason Peters, Kelce, Brooks and Johnson are all well-established at their positions, but the Eagles’ starter at left guard remains unclear. Stefen Wisniewski has started seven of the last eight games at the position, but it’s possible the rookie could get the nod over the veteran who is unlikely to be an Eagle next season. While Allen Barbre started at left guard to begin the season and he’s expected to be available for Thursday Night Football, it’s unknown how healthy he’ll be when the Eagles host the Giants.

“(Seumalo) will definitely factor in [when we determine who will start at left guard],” Pederson said. “He played well for his first right tackle start. He played extremely well. We got a great player in Isaac and a versatile player that can play any of those positions now along the lines. Gives us a little more depth these last couple of weeks.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

After missing the last 10 games due to a suspension, Lane Johnson will start Thursday night against the New York Giants.

Two Eagles had some of the worst performances from Week 15.

“I was locking dudes down out there until that one play. Was it a call that I wanted to be in? No.” Jalen Mills was one of a few players who questioned some of Jim Schwartz’s decisions.

“If we had a chance to win it, we were going to go for it and win it.” Doug Pederson defends his decision to go for two and the win.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Could Carson Wentz‘s last drive be a turning point in his young career? The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane thinks so.

Agree or disagree with Pederson’s decision to go for two, or even with the personnel on the field, he called a play that gave the Eagles a chance to be successful against a zero blitz. [Jordan] Matthews had a half-step as he slanted, but Wentz’s pass was tipped.

As well as he played on the final two drives, Wentz struggled for most of the first three quarters. He tossed an interception off his back foot on the Eagles’ first drive. He took a sack and fumbled out of bounds when he held the ball too long. He fumbled a snap. And he had two passes tipped.

They are issues, including his tendency to sail passes when pressured, that haven’t really gone away all season. But Wentz was also facing one of the NFL’s top defenses on the road and in difficult conditions. The downfield passing game was nonexistent as rain fell and wind swirled.

And what also hasn’t gone away are outside receivers unable to either get open or make plays on the ball. [Nelson] Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham played 98 and 61 percent of the plays, respectively, and finished with just a combined two catches for 20 yards.

Rodney McLeod says he misjudged where he was on the field when he gave up a 16-yard rushing touchdown to Kenneth Dixon, according to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.

“We were in Cover-3,” he said. “It was a scheme play, and it’s been kind of working against us. The Redskins scored on a play like that. The Ravens ran it at the right moment.

“I felt like I had more space. Obviously, I’m the last line of defense, so my job is to get him on the ground … before the end zone. It was one of those tough plays.

“If I could change, I would attack a little more and take my shot maybe a little sooner than what I did. I’ve just got to be more aware of where I am on the field.”

COMING UP

Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz will address the media at around 11 a.m.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.